Imagine being 80 years old and someone tells you that in order to continue living you have to learn a whole new career and launch a business. Most people wouldn’t be interested.
When we talk about change in churches, this is pretty close to what we are asking.
The path forward is two fold. First, we do need to help the churches that want help to turn the corner. The issue here is that for many churches the underlying problems that make them terminal is the same problem that will prevent them from making a turn around (rebirth).
We aren’t going to repopulate the world through the elderly (unless you are Abraham). The world is repopulated through birthing new babies.
Second, new churches must be birthed. That requires innovation and a pioneer spirit (which we had 200 years ago and they had 2000 years ago).
This requires risk of failure but so does staying just as we are. We are a risk averse group – always worried about who will be offended if we try something new. Trying something new isn’t in our DNA! But if we embrace the early church – trying something new will be important to us (they brought in the Gentiles, started new churches, went to new mission fields, etc and caught flak for it…and so will we). In fact, there is a higher guarantee of failure in not starting new churches than in starting them. This is because we know churches have a lifespan and almost none make it 100 years. By neglecting church planting we are ensuring our own demise.
If you want some data to show this has been truly neglected in my fellowship, check out Stan Granberg’s article in the Great Commission Journal Fall 2018. Here are two of the charts that tell the story of what has happened in the number of plants by year and decade from 1909-2016.
We effectively stopped planting churches in the last 10-15 years.
I have broken several bones in my lifetime and every time I have, you immediately draw in. I tripped over something when I was about 10 and broke my arm. I immediately drew in and held my arm. It wasn’t time to think about doing much other than getting through the hurt.
That is similar to where many religious groups are today. There has been trauma and hurt paired with confusion on identity and purpose. We have drawn in. It is hard to be on the move when you are hurt.
We need healing. That is going to take repentance and reconciliation. It is going to take listening to a younger generation and taking action together. It is going to take releasing authority and control. It is going to take reliance on the Spirit. It is going to take many things that many churches just aren’t capable of doing. And that’s okay. Not everyone will turn this corner.
Death is inevitable.
But anyone can start a church as long as they know Jesus and have a desire to be faithful and help others do the same. No one is stopping anyone from starting a church. That is the beauty of the Restoration Movement. On one hand, our autonomy makes widespread change nearly impossible but on the other hand it opens the door to innovation and bold movement without having to get permission from the mothership.
We already cannot train enough people to serve existing churches. The only way to have enough people to start new churches is to train the “everyday disciple” is be obedient to the call to make disciples that start new churches…like in Acts!
What can you do?
Dying churches – If you are part of a dying church and would like a resource to know how to finish well, there is no better book out there than Tombstones to Cornerstones.
Planting churches – I have tools on this site that can help you get started. If you need help, email me. Thanks for reading. Let’s pray for boldness! Let’s pray for workers for the harvest field (our daily prayer). Then let’s GO!
Add church planting ministries to your church budget. Your church may not have the vision to execute a church plant but you can have the vision to bless those who are working on this. Contact me and I will point you to various ministries.